Browsing Tag

appetizer

book review, recipe

Perfect Little World + Pickled Deviled Eggs

My latest Book of the Month selection explored the concept of a utopian society – a nice change of pace from the other books I’ve been reading lately. In Perfect Little World, Isabelle is a teenage mother without the father in the picture or the support of her own family. Lucky for her, Dr. Preston Grind is currently casting for his new experiment in childrearing – The Infinite Family Project.

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Designed as a utopia for raising children, The Infinite Family Project brings together 10 children and 19 parents. They live in a housing compound among the best experts in child development and raise the children together as one carefully-chosen extended family.

As the only single mother in the project, Izzy has a few obstacles to overcome, but she eventually finds her place among the other parents. She becomes an apprentice to the hired cook, learning new skills and taking pride in her work. When a magazine comes to do a profile on them, she impresses even herself with pickled deviled eggs topped with candied bacon.

To the reporter and photographer, the experiment may not seem as cultish as they had originally thought. But, as with any family, things aren’t always what they seem to an outsider, and over the course of 10 years, the perfection Dr. Grind was seeking starts to show some cracks.  

Obviously, I seized on the opportunity to make my own pickled eggs and candied bacon and turn them into the masterpiece that Izzy served during the visit from the magazine. With Easter just around the corner, it seemed like a perfect fit. First, I learned how to pickle eggs with beet juice and how to candy bacon, but then I was ready to dive in!

Pickling eggs is pretty easy, and it’s a great way to make the deviled eggs look more festive. For wary picky eaters, it didn’t alter the taste all that much in this application, but added a bit of tang. Overall, it just made them better. 

I took my peeled, hard-boiled eggs and added them to a large jar. (If you don’t have a jar, another container will work, but glass is preferred.) To that, I added my pickling liquid – beet juice, vinegar, salt and water boiled together – and let the whole thing sit overnight in my fridge.

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The next day, I started with my candied bacon, since cooking it low and slow as suggested took a while and could be done while I otherwise prepped the deviled eggs. I recommend following the link in the notes section of the recipe and only making one or two slices total, if you’re making a dozen deviled eggs.

While the bacon cooked, I began working on the eggs. First, I cut them in half and arranged them on a plate.

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I scooped out the yolks and put them in a small bowl. To that, I added the mayo, vinegar and mustard. I stirred those together with a fork until most of the lumps were gone – this is especially important if you’re going the piping route. Then I added a generous sprinkle of seasoned salt and a bit of freshly ground black pepper.

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I used a piping bag in an effort to make the eggs look a bit more elegant, but feel free to use a spoon if you’re not trying to impress anyone. (That’s what I usually do.) Once the egg whites were filled, I added the finished candied bacon, which I cut into about half-inch sections.

Combined, the flavors complemented each other very well. The vinegar from the pickling helped to cut the richness of the deviled eggs and the candied bacon added an element of crunch and some sweetness to balance the tart. These lovely purple eggs will be a great addition to any Easter celebration or even a picnic as the weather warms up. Enjoy!

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Pickled Deviled Eggs with Candied Bacon

  • Servings: 12
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Ingredients

  • 6 hard-boiled eggs
  • 1 15-oz can sliced beets with liquid
  • ½ cup white vinegar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp yellow mustard
  • ¾ teaspoon white vinegar
  • pinch of Lawry’s seasoned salt, or to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • candied bacon as garnish, optional (see notes)

Directions

  1. Hard boil your eggs according to your preference or favorite recipe. (My method in notes.) Peel and place in a large jar.
  2. To make the pickling liquid, combine beets, vinegar, water and sugar in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar is fully dissolved. Pour over the eggs. (I left out the majority of the beets because I didn’t have a lot of room in my container.)
  3. Make sure the jar/container is covered or sealed and then place in the fridge overnight.
  4. Slice pickled eggs in half lengthwise. Remove yolks and put into a small bowl. Place egg whites cut side up on a serving platter or tray.
  5. In bowl with yolks, add mayonnaise, mustard and vinegar. Mix until well-combined and not lumpy. Add seasoned salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Using a spoon or a piping bag and tip, fill the egg whites with the deviled egg mixture until finished.
  7. If using candied bacon, garnish with about half-inch slices on top.

Adapted from: Pinch My Salt’s deviled eggs and Sweet Little Bluebird’s pickled eggs

I made the hard-boiled eggs by placing them in a saucepan and filling with cold water until the eggs were covered by about an inch. Bring water to a boil and then immediately remove from heat. Cover and let sit for 12 minutes. Remove from the water and use a cold water rinse or ice water bath until eggs are cool.

If you choose to garnish with candied bacon, you really only need 1-2 slices per dozen deviled eggs. This link has a good explanation along with step-by-step photos. I recommend about 2-3 tablespoons of brown sugar for 1-2 slices. Use your best judgment.


book review, recipe

Small Great Things + Bite-Size Appetizer Trio

When I sat down with Jodi Picoult’s latest novel Small Great Things, I admit I hadn’t read a description. One of my clients had recommended it to me last last year, so I requested it from the library and sort of forgot about it. It came in a couple of weeks ago and I dove right in without expectation.

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Right off the bat, this quote hit me. It felt so on-the-nose about the world we’re currently living in; I knew the right book had found me again.

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The narrative began, and I was immediately engrossed. I was also often uncomfortable. Three points of view bring this story to life – a black nurse, a white supremacist man, and a white lawyer who “doesn’t see color.” It isn’t shy about race or racism. The topic is the crux of the novel, the reason the story is being told. (Make sure to read the Author’s Note at the end.)

Ruth Jefferson doesn’t realize when she walks into the hospital room of proud new parents that she’s walking into a room of white supremacists. Despite her 20 years of experience, she is prohibited from having contact with them or their baby because of the color of her skin. The next day, when another nurse has no choice but to leave Ruth alone with the baby, he goes into cardiac arrest. She is forced to choose between obeying orders and her duty as a nurse, and ultimately, she is blamed for the baby’s death.

During the course of Ruth’s trial, each character examines their lives, their beliefs and the world around them. It’s intense and it will make you examine yourself and our world as well. Like any story told about race – real or imagined – it made me think, and I still can’t stop recommending this book to everyone I encounter.

To go along with Small Great Things, I opted to make a trio of bite-size appetizers. I wanted to make a “well-balanced” variety, so I opted for meatballs, spinach artichoke dip bites, and mini crab-stuffed mushrooms. All of them were easy and could, for the most part, be prepped ahead of time. Of course, they were delicious too.

I started with making the filling for the spinach artichoke dip bites. I combined my spinach (make sure it’s thawed and thoroughly drained), chopped artichoke hearts, garlic, garlic powder, salt and parmesan cheese.

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Then, I added the softened cream cheese and half of the shredded cheese, ground some black pepper over the bowl and mixed it all together. I set the filling aside while I cut the crescent roll dough into squares. I sprayed the mini muffin tin with cooking spray and popped one square in each opening, before filling it with the spinach artichoke mixture. I didn’t stress out about it too much – just made sure each one was amply filled and had a good sprinkle of shredded cheese on top.

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These should bake in a 375 degree oven for 15-17 minutes. After they’re finished, allow them to cool for 5-10 minutes before removing from the muffin tin.

Then, I moved on to the mushrooms. First, I cleaned my little army of mini bella mushrooms. (These are my favorite kind of mushroom because they have great flavor, but feel free to use white button mushrooms if you prefer.)

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The original recipe recommended that you toss the mushrooms in melted butter until they’re well-coated. I did that, but I took out of my recipe below. They were a little too moist, in my opinion. If you’d like to lightly brush the tops only with olive oil (or melted butter) that is probably sufficient.

I lined them all up on a foil-covered sheet pan while I made the filling. To make the the crab stuffing, take a medium bowl and combine the lump crab meat, cream cheese, shredded cheese, Worcestershire sauce and green onions.

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Then, I stuffed each mushroom with as much filling as would fit. It’s okay to be generous here – I had them all a little over-filled because the filling cooks down as it bakes. Top each mushroom with the parmesan cheese.

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The mushrooms should bake in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes. After they are heated through and the cheese is melted, turn on the broiler for between 2-5 minutes, watching closely so they don’t burn. The goal is to get the tops to be a nice lightly golden brown.

While everything else was baking, I began on the meatballs. I combined all of the ingredients for the sauce – peach preserves, finely diced chipotle peppers, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, salt and pepper in a high-sided skillet.

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It turned it up to medium so that it could come up to a simmer and allowed it to cook at that temperature for about 5 minutes. Then, I added the meatballs and covered the pan.

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The meatballs cooked for another 25 minutes. I stirred them a few times, making sure they were well-coated and cooking evenly. Serve warm.

Spinach Artichoke Dip Bites

  • Servings: 24 pieces
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Ingredients

  • 1 9-oz package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
  • 1 6-oz jar artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • ½ tsp minced garlic
  • 2 TBS shredded parmesan cheese
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese, divided
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • pepper to taste (freshly ground)
  • 1 can seamless crescent roll dough

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. In a bowl, combine spinach, artichoke hearts, garlic, garlic powder, salt and parmesan cheese. Blend in cream cheese and half of your shredded cheese. Add freshly ground black pepper to taste.
  3. Using a rolling pin, lay out dough on a cutting board and lightly stretch to 8×12. (It should already be close to this straight out of the package.) Cut down into 2-inch squares, so you have 24 squares total.
  4. Lightly grease a mini muffin tin and place a square in each slot, gently pushing down to create an indent. (You do not need to mold it to the cup.) In most cases, the dough should naturally fall into the cups.
  5. Scoop about 1 Tablespoon of your spinach mixture on top of each square and gently push in. (Bites will mold to the tin while baking.) If there is any remaining mixture, add to cups that look less full than others.
  6. Sprinkle the remaining Monterey Jack cheese over the tops of each bite.
  7. Bake for 15-17 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool for 5-10 minutes before removing from the muffin tin.

Adapted from: Lil’ Luna

Don’t worry about making sure your squares are perfectly uniform. I had a whole variety of some that looked more rectangle-y, some that were small and some that were larger. They all tasted delicious.


Mini Crab Stuffed Mushrooms

  • Servings: 80-100 mushrooms
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Ingredients

  • 80-100 mini Bella mushrooms (5-6 containers)
  • 8 ounces lump crab meat, drained
  • 8 ounces whipped cream cheese
  • 12 ounces (1½ cups) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 2 bunches chopped green onions
  • 1 TBS Worcestershire sauce
  • 4-6 TBS shredded parmesan cheese
  • olive oil or melted butter, as desired

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Wash mushrooms and remove the stems. If desired, lightly brush the tops only with olive oil or melted butter. Set aside.
  3. Mix remaining all ingredients except the parmesan cheese.
  4. Stuff mushrooms with the crab-cheese mixture. Top with the parmesan cheese.
  5. Bake mushrooms at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Broil for 2-5 minutes, watching to ensure they don’t burn. Mushrooms should be slightly golden brown on top.

Adapted from: Crazy Jamie

Bonus Recipe: If you have any of the filling leftover (as I did when I made these following the original recipe), it makes great crab quesadillas. Just warm tortilla(s) in a lightly greased skillet over medium heat. Add filling to one half of the quesadilla and fold over. Once the bottom is lightly golden, flip. Wait for that side to become lightly browned as well and ensure the filling is heated through. Serve with hot sauce, salsa, guacamole, or whatever toppings you prefer!


Chipotle Peach Meatballs

  • Servings: 60 meatballs
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 18 oz peach preserves
  • 3-4 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, finely diced
  • ½ cup ketchup
  • ½ TBS Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • 32 oz, or about 60 frozen cocktail meatballs (see notes)

Directions

  1. Add peach preserves, diced chipotle peppers, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, salt and pepper into a medium to large high-sided skillet. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and allow to simmer for 5 minutes.
  2. Cooking in two batches, add half (about 30) of the meatballs and cover. Let simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally for an additional 25 minutes, or until meatballs are thawed.
  3. Using tongs so the majority of the sauce stays in the skillet, transfer the meatballs to your serving container and keep warm. Repeat step 2.
  4. Add second batch of meatballs and sauce to serving bowl. Serve warm.

Adapted from: The Culinary Compass

If you have multiple meatball options in your grocery store, opt for Homestyle as they’ll have less seasoning than Italian (which were the two options at mine).

If you prefer your meatballs saucier, you can use 18 oz (approximately 32) meatballs instead and cook in one batch only.


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of interest, recipe

Rory Gilmore Reading List + Salmon Puffs and Gimlets

Gilmore Girls is, without a doubt, one of my favorite TV shows. It was full of an amazing cast of characters – including, of course, some very strong and capable women, full of eating, and full of reading too.

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Photo Credit: TV Line

Since the new Netflix series Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life just came out last weekend, I’m taking this opportunity to spend a whole week in Stars Hollow, so to speak. This is the first of three posts, all including recipes found in the Eat Like a Gilmore cookbook.

It is pretty well-documented that Rory Gilmore read 339 books throughout the seven seasons of the original show. For a while I’ve had the list saved in my book spreadsheet (yes, that’s a thing I have) as sort of a #bookgoals thing, but until now, I hadn’t really compared what I’d read with what she’d read. What a great way to kick off Gilmore Week.

Along with a cocktail and an appetizer, of course! But first, if you’re interested in my tally, click below. The books I’ve read are in green, and the books still hanging out on my to-be-read list are in blue.

 

Obviously I don’t love the Russians as much as Rory does. Check it out.

1984 by George Orwell
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
Archidamian War by Donald Kagan
The Art of Fiction by Henry James
The Art of War by Sun Tzu
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
Atonement by Ian McEwan
Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy
The Awakening by Kate Chopin
Babe by Dick King-Smith
Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women by Susan Faludi
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Beloved by Toni Morrison
Beowulf: A New Verse Translation by Seamus Heaney
The Bhagava Gita
The Bielski Brothers: The True Story of Three Men Who Defied the Nazis, Built a Village in the Forest, and Saved 1,200 Jews by Peter Duffy
Bitch: in Praise of Difficult Women by Elizabeth Wurtzel
A Bolt from the Blue and Other Essays by Mary McCarthy
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Brick Lane by Monica Ali
Bridgadoon by Alan Jay Lerner
Candide by Voltaire
The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer
Carrie by Stephen King
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White
The Children’s Hour by Lillian Hellman
Christine by Stephen King
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
The Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse
The Collected Short Stories by Eudora Welty
The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty by Eudora Welty
A Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare
Complete Novels by Dawn Powell
The Complete Poems by Anne Sexton
Complete Stories by Dorothy Parker
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
Cousin Bette by Honor’e de Balzac
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber
The Crucible by Arthur Miller
Cujo by Stephen King
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
Daisy Miller by Henry James
Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende
David and Lisa by Dr Theodore Issac Rubin M.D
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol
Demons by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
Deenie by Judy Blume
The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson
The Dirt: Confessions of the World’s Most Notorious Rock Band by Tommy Lee, Vince Neil, Mick Mars and Nikki Sixx
The Divine Comedy by Dante
The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells
Don Quijote by Cervantes
Driving Miss Daisy by Alfred Uhrv
Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
Edgar Allan Poe: Complete Tales & Poems by Edgar Allan Poe
Eleanor Roosevelt by Blanche Wiesen Cook
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe
Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters by Mark Dunn
Eloise by Kay Thompson
Emily the Strange by Roger Reger
Emma by Jane Austen
Empire Falls by Richard Russo – I remember picking this up and starting this back in high school… Not sure if I finished it, so for now it will remain on my TBR list
Encyclopedia Brown: Boy Detective by Donald J. Sobol
Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
Ethics by Spinoza
Europe through the Back Door, 2003 by Rick Steves
Eva Luna by Isabel Allende
Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
Extravagance by Gary Krist
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Fahrenheit 9/11 by Michael Moore
The Fall of the Athenian Empire by Donald Kagan
Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World by Greg Critser
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
The Fellowship of the Ring: Book 1 of The Lord of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien
Fiddler on the Roof by Joseph Stein
The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom
Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce
Fletch by Gregory McDonald
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem
The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Franny and Zooey by J. D. Salinger
Freaky Friday by Mary Rodgers
Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut
Gender Trouble by Judith Butler
George W. Bushism: The Slate Book of the Accidental Wit and Wisdom of our 43rd President by Jacob Weisberg
Gidget by Fredrick Kohner
Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels
The Godfather: Book 1 by Mario Puzo
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
Goldilocks and the Three Bears by Alvin Granowsky
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
The Good Soldier by Ford Maddox Ford
The Gospel According to Judy Bloom
The Graduate by Charles Webb
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
The Group by Mary McCarthy
Hamlet by William Shakespeare
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (#4) by J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (#1) by J. K. Rowling – She must’ve read them all, right? 
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad 
Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry
Henry IV, part I by William Shakespeare
Henry IV, part II by William Shakespeare
Henry V by William Shakespeare
High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon
Holidays on Ice: Stories by David Sedaris
The Holy Barbarians by Lawrence Lipton
House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III
The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende – Recently finished! Blog coming next week
How to Breathe Underwater by Julie Orringer
How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
How the Light Gets In by M. J. Hyland
Howl by Allen Gingsburg
The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
The Iliad by Homer
I’m with the Band by Pamela des Barres
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Inherit the Wind by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee
Iron Weed by William J. Kennedy
It Takes a Village by Hillary Clinton
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan + Pork Dumplings
Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare
The Jumping Frog by Mark Twain
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
Just a Couple of Days by Tony Vigorito
The Kitchen Boy: A Novel of the Last Tsar by Robert Alexander
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Lady Chatterleys’ Lover by D. H. Lawrence
The Last Empire: Essays 1992-2000 by Gore Vidal
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
The Legend of Bagger Vance by Steven Pressfield
Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis
Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke
Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them by Al Franken
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens
The Little Locksmith by Katharine Butler Hathaway
The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Andersen
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott 
Living History by Hillary Rodham Clinton
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
The Lottery: And Other Stories by Shirley Jackson
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
The Love Story by Erich Segal
Macbeth by William Shakespeare
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
The Manticore by Robertson Davies
Marathon Man by William Goldman
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter by Simone de Beauvoir
Memoirs of General W. T. Sherman by William Tecumseh Sherman
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
The Meaning of Consuelo by Judith Ortiz Cofer
Mencken’s Chrestomathy by H. R. Mencken
The Merry Wives of Windsor by William Shakespeare
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
The Miracle Worker by William Gibson
Moby Dick by Herman Melville – This one I half-read in high school, but I won’t count it here because I have no interest in ever picking it up again.
The Mojo Collection: The Ultimate Music Companion by Jim Irvin
Moliere: A Biography by Hobart Chatfield Taylor
A Monetary History of the United States by Milton Friedman
Monsieur Proust by Celeste Albaret
A Month Of Sundays: Searching For The Spirit And My Sister by Julie Mars
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
Mutiny on the Bounty by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall
My Lai 4: A Report on the Massacre and It’s Aftermath by Seymour M. Hersh
My Life as Author and Editor by H. R. Mencken
My Life in Orange: Growing Up with the Guru by Tim Guest
My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult
The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer
The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin
Nervous System: Or, Losing My Mind in Literature by Jan Lars Jensen
New Poems of Emily Dickinson by Emily Dickinson
The New Way Things Work by David Macaulay
Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich
Night by Elie Wiesel
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism by William E. Cain, Laurie A. Finke, Barbara E. Johnson, John P. McGowan
Novels 1930-1942: Dance Night/Come Back to Sorrento, Turn, Magic Wheel/Angels on Toast/A Time to be Born by Dawn Powell
Notes of a Dirty Old Man by Charles Bukowski
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Old School by Tobias Wolff
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The Opposite of Fate: Memories of a Writing Life by Amy Tan
Oracle Night by Paul Auster
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
Othello by Shakespeare – the only Shakespeare play I actually enjoyed in school
Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens
The Outbreak of the Peloponnesian War by Donald Kagan
Out of Africa by Isac Dineson
The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton
A Passage to India by E.M. Forster
The Peace of Nicias and the Sicilian Expedition by Donald Kagan
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Peyton Place by Grace Metalious
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Pigs at the Trough by Arianna Huffington
Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi
Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain
The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby
The Portable Dorothy Parker by Dorothy Parker
The Portable Nietzche by Fredrich Nietzche
The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O’Neill by Ron Suskind
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Property by Valerie Martin
Pushkin: A Biography by T. J. Binyon
Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw
Quattrocento by James Mckean
A Quiet Storm by Rachel Howzell Hall
Rapunzel by Grimm Brothers
The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe
The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham
Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books by Azar Nafisi + Cream Puffs
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin
The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
Rescuing Patty Hearst: Memories From a Decade Gone Mad by Virginia Holman
The Return of the King: The Lord of the Rings (Book 3) by J. R. R. Tolkien
R Is for Ricochet by Sue Grafton
Rita Hayworth by Stephen King
Robert’s Rules of Order by Henry Robert
Roman Fever by Edith Wharton
Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
A Room with a View by E. M. Forster
Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin
Sacred Time by Ursula Hegi
Sanctuary by William Faulkner
Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay by Nancy Milford
The Scarecrow of Oz by Frank L. Baum
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand
The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Secrets of the Flesh: A Life of Colette by Judith Thurman
Selected Letters of Dawn Powell: 1913-1965 by Dawn Powell
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
A Separate Peace by John Knowles
Several Biographies of Winston Churchill
Sexus by Henry Miller
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Shane by Jack Shaefer
The Shining by Stephen King
Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
S Is for Silence by Sue Grafton
Slaughter-house Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Small Island by Andrea Levy – tried and couldn’t finish (assigned reading for my study abroad in London during college)
Snows of Kilimanjaro by Ernest Hemingway
Snow White and Rose Red by Grimm Brothers
Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy: Lord and Peasant in the Making of the Modern World by Barrington Moore
The Song of Names by Norman Lebrecht
Song of the Simple Truth: The Complete Poems of Julia de Burgos by Julia de Burgos
The Song Reader by Lisa Tucker
Songbook by Nick Hornby
The Sonnets by William Shakespeare
Sonnets from the Portuegese by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Sophie’s Choice by William Styron
The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
The Story of My Life by Helen Keller
A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams
Stuart Little by E. B. White
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust
Swimming with Giants: My Encounters with Whales, Dolphins and Seals by Anne Collett
Sybil by Flora Rheta Schreiber
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
Tender Is The Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Term of Endearment by Larry McMurtry
Time and Again by Jack Finney
The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
To Have and Have Not by Ernest Hemingway
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Tragedy of Richard III by William Shakespeare
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
The Trial by Franz Kafka
The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters by Elisabeth Robinson
Truth & Beauty: A Friendship by Ann Patchett
Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
Ulysses by James Joyce
The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath 1950-1962 by Sylvia Plath
Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
Unless by Carol Shields
Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann
The Vanishing Newspaper by Philip Meyers
Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
Velvet Underground’s The Velvet Underground and Nico (Thirty Three and a Third series) by Joe Harvard
The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett
Walden by Henry David Thoreau
Walt Disney’s Bambi by Felix Salten
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
We Owe You Nothing – Punk Planet: The Collected Interviews edited by Daniel Sinker
What Colour is Your Parachute? 2005 by Richard Nelson Bolles
What Happened to Baby Jane by Henry Farrell
When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka
Who Moved My Cheese? Spencer Johnson
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf by Edward Albee
Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire
The Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

Grand total: I’ve read 59, with another 28 on my TBR list.

How many have you read? Let me know in the comments!

 

My friend and fellow Gilmore Girls fan, Deanna, was just as excited as I for the recent revival, so when I proposed a day full of Gilmore-inspired cooking and eating, she was totally on board. We made something from every section of the cookbook, but we will start in true Emily Gilmore fashion – with a cocktail and an appetizer.

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For our old-fashioned gimlet, we needed simple syrup, limes, ice, and gin. Don’t forget the shaker!

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To make a simple syrup, combine equal parts water and granulated sugar in a saucepan, heating over medium-high heat to dissolve the sugar. Once it thickens and becomes syrup-y, remove it from the heat and allow it to cool (for at least 5 minutes). To make 2 gimlets, you’ll need 4 tablespoons of each.

While that cooked, I juiced some limes and cut them into slices for garnish.

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Then we could really get down to business – mixing the drinks. To the shaker, already half full of ice, Deanna added 6 ounces of gin, 3 ounces of lime juice and the simple syrup. She shook it for two minutes (or a little longer, while I snapped pictures), and then the drinks were ready!

Drinks in hand, we began making the Salmon Puffs, one of Emily Gilmore’s most highly sought-after hors d’oeuvres. See how we exude confidence?

First, we prepared the salmon filling. Deanna removed the skin and then I cut the salmon into smaller chunks before adding into the food processor. We also added the lemon juice, cayenne pepper and dill. Once it formed a coarse paste, we added the mustard and maybe a little bit extra cheese. After just a bit more processing, the salmon filling was ready.

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If you don’t have a pastry cutter (I left mine at home), hopefully you have a dixie cup lying around. At exactly 2” in diameter, it makes an excellent substitute once you cut out the bottom. We were excited at our ingenuity. (Cheers! Take a sip of your classy gimlet.)

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We were easily able to eek out 9 additional rounds from our pastry dough, perhaps you can get 10! The goal is to end up with at least 30 puff pastry circles, but no more than 40 as you won’t have enough filling. Place them in your mini-muffin pan and push them down to form small cups.

Once the pastry cups are complete, use a fork to poke holes in the bottom of each. Then, using a pastry bag with a wide tip or a small kitchen spoon, fill them with the salmon mixture.

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Make sure your oven rack is in the center before placing the pans in the preheated oven. After 12 minutes (or possibly a few more – ours took 15), the salmon puffs should be ready. If the salmon pops off of any of them, simply push it back down into the newly puffed cup.

Using a skewer or toothpicks, form a hole in the center of each to ready for the garnish. Place 3 pieces of chive into each hole so that they are sticking straight up.

Put on a platter and serve. Hopefully people at your fancy cocktail party won’t be able to get enough! We sure couldn’t!

Gimlets

  • Servings: 2
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 4 TBS water
  • 4 TBS granulated sugar
  • Ice
  • 6 oz gin
  • 3 oz lime juice, freshly squeezed
  • 2 lime slices, for garnish

Directions

  1. Make Simple Syrup: Combine water and sugar in a small saucepan. Over medium heat, stir until sugar is fully dissolved and a syrup-like liquid forms. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes.
  2. Mix Cocktail: Half-fill a shaker with ice. Add the simple syrup, gin and lime juice. Shake vigorously for 1-2 minutes. Strain into glass. Attach lime slices to edge of glasses. Serve.

Salmon Puffs

  • Servings: Makes 30-40 puffs
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Ingredients

  • ½ – ⅔ cup fresh salmon, skin removed (you probably only need a 4-5 oz fillet)
  • ¾ tsp fresh dill
  • ¼ cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp grainy deli-style mustard
  • 4 tsp Port Salut cheese, rind removed (can substitute Muenster)
  • 2 puff pastry sheets
  • Chives, for garnish, cut into approx. 90 1-inch pieces (3 per puff)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Move rack to center position.
  2. In a food processor, add salmon, dill, lemon juice and cayenne pepper. Process until a coarse paste forms. Add mustard and cheese. Process until the mixture is smooth.
  3. Lay out a sheet of thawed puff pastry (follow directions on package) on a lightly floured work surface. Use a round 2-inch in diameter cutter [in a pinch, the bottom of a dixie cup works] to cut circles from each sheet. [Original recipe calls for 30. We were able to cut 39 circles from our sheets and had enough filling to create 39 finished puffs.]
  4. Using a mini muffin pan or tart pan, press a round of dough into each cup. Use a small form to poke 10-15 holes into the bottom of the dough.
  5. Using a spoon, fill each cup with about 1 teaspoon of the salmon mixture. [Original recipe recommends using a pastry bag with a wide tip and piping in the filling.]
  6. Bake puffs for 12 minutes.
  7. Salmon may have popped up during baking. If so, press back down into pastry.
  8. Remove puffs to a plate or serving platter. Use a skewer or two toothpicks to make a hole in the center of each puff. Place 3 pieces of chive into each hole, so they are sticking straight up. Serve.

book review, recipe

Behold the Dreamers + Chicken Suya

Jende and Neni Jonga have come to New York City (Harlem) from Cameroon to achieve the American Dream. After struggling to make ends meet for a few years in the States, Jende secures a meeting with Clark Edwards, a high-level executive at Lehman Brothers. In 2007, this seems like another step closer to Jende’s dream.

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In Behold the Dreamers, Imbolo Mbue examines the American Dream from both sides – the Jengas’ desperate pursuit of it serves as a stark contrast to the Edwards’ comfortable lifestyle and achievements. Jende is overjoyed at the opportunity to chauffeur the entire Edwards family around the city so that Neni can complete pharmacy school and take care of their son.

In the driver’s seat, Jende is privy to many of Clark’s important conversations in the car but never lets the sensitive information slip. Even when tensions arise between the Jongas and the Edwards, Jende remains ever-loyal, not wanting to upset the careful balance that is keeping him in America. Mbue’s novel is a reminder that even those comfortably at the top should never get too comfortable, and sometimes it’s important to take a step back to determine what will truly make you happy.

Even though Jende and Neni are all too happy to be in the U.S., their kitchen table is filled with foods that remind them of home. One of the first meals we see Jende eat in the novel is African pepper chicken. I found a recipe online for Chicken Suya, commonly found in Cameroon, served with an African Pepper Sauce. Neni also serves fried ripe plantains throughout the novel, so I added those to the menu. Together, I thought it would make the perfect meal to accompany their story.

I started with the sauce and tried to remain unintimidated by the number of hot peppers it required. After cleaning and chopping them, I also roughly chopped the onions and tomatoes. Everything went into the food processor.

It came together pretty easily (as most blended sauces do), and while it simmered on the stovetop, I began prepping the chicken. I trimmed and cut the chicken thighs, dividing the pieces onto the skewers.

For the rub, I combined all of the spices, peanut butter and bouillon, working it into a paste of sorts. It ended up being extremely thick – to the point that it was nearly impossible to “brush” on the chicken as directed. I thinned it out a bit with water and ended up forcefully painting it onto the chicken with a rubber scraper.

It’s up to you, but it might be worthwhile to thin it out a bit more (either with oil or water) so that you can cover your chicken more thoroughly – mine ended up rather blotchy.

While the chicken baked, I let my oil get up to temperature for the plantains. The sauce was done by this time, so I removed it from the heat, allowing it to cool off a bit before we ate.

For the fried ripe plantains, I tried to find as a ripe a plantain as I could at the store. Thinking it would be similar to peeling a banana, I ended up having a difficult time. I would’ve benefitted from a handy guide, like this one. (Hopefully your peeling experience will be much easier than mine!) Once the pesky peel was off, I sliced it on the diagonal into large oblong coins.

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Frying them proved to be much easier than peeling them, thanks in part to my adventures in frying the johnnycakes the week before.

After a few minutes, they were a nice golden brown. I scooped them out onto a paper towel and sprinkled with salt. They proved to be not only a nice complement to the seasoning of the chicken and the spiciness of the sauce but a break from the heat as well!

I was happy to be able to make a dish that paired so well with such an enjoyable book, but truth be told, this wasn’t something I would make again. Not one for super spicy foods anyway, I could only use about a tablespoon of the pepper sauce over two skewers of chicken. My boyfriend (who loves spicy food) thought the sauce went well alongside the chicken but probably not something he’d eat without it. And, heads up, the recipe makes a decent amount of sauce – at least 4 cups.      

Chicken Suya with African Pepper Sauce

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Print


From: African Bites [Annotations from me]

Ingredients

    Suya Chicken

  • 3 pounds skinless chicken thigh
  • 4 tablespoons peanut butter or groundnut paste
  • ½ – 1 tablespoon cayenne (depending on heat preference)
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon white pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Bouillon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 6 – 8 wooden skewers
  • African Pepper Sauce

  • 10 peppers (habenero or scotch bonnet)
  • 1 medium onion
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoon bouillon powder [I used chicken]
  • 2 basil leaves [I used 1 teaspoon dried basil]
  • 2 tablespoon parsley [I used 2 teaspoons dried parsley]
  • 1 – 3 roma tomatoes (adjust for spiciness)
  • ½ – 1 cup vegetable oil
  • salt

Directions

  1. Coarsely chop the tomatoes, onions, and discard stems of the peppers. Put the tomatoes, onions, peppers, garlic, parsley, basil, bouillon in the food processor along with as much oil as desired. [I used ½ cup, which seemed to be enough for my sauce.]
  2. Pour the pepper mixture into a small sauce pan bring to a boil and slowly simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent burns. Add salt and adjust as needed.
  3. While the sauce is simmering, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Soak the skewers for at least 20 minutes totally submerged in water before using it to prevent burns.
  4. In a medium bowl, mix garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, white pepper, cayenne pepper, peanut butter and bouillon. [Mine formed a pretty thick paste, making it difficult to brush/spread on the chicken. I would suggest adding some water or oil as needed to thin it out a bit.]
  5. Pat the chicken thighs dry with a paper towel. You want to have a completely dry chicken before cooking. Trim and slice the chicken into thin slices or bite size cuts (suggest cutting on a diagonal).
  6. Lightly spray or oil baking sheet or roasting pan to prevent the suya from sticking to the pan. [I covered mine with foil to make cleanup easier.]
  7. Thread the chicken onto the skewers (about 4 per skewer), making sure the skewer is fully covered with slices of chicken.
  8. Brush the chicken skewer with spice mixture on both sides. Place skewers on the sprayed/oiled roasting pan or baking sheet.
  9. Drizzle with oil and bake for about 20-25 minutes, flipping halfway through baking until chicken is fully cooked through. Towards the last 3 minutes of baking, switch to broil to get a nice crisp brown on the outside.
  10. When the pepper sauce is finished, let it cool. Pour in a mason jar or a container with a lid and store in a fridge for about a week. In order for your pepper sauce to last longer, make sure it is fully covered in oil.
  11. Serve chicken suya warm with a side of African pepper sauce [and fried plantains, if desired].

book review, recipe

The Joy Luck Club + Pork Dumplings

Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club is about four Chinese-American mothers who immigrated from China to San Francisco and their daughters. Like a mahjong game, the novel’s sixteen chapters are organized into four parts, each with four sections. Two sections focus on the Joy Luck mothers and two sections focus on their daughters, with one chapter devoted to their childhoods and one chapter devoted to their lives as adult women.

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The story Tan tells is at once distinctive and familiar. While I couldn’t directly relate to what they faced as immigrants in a foreign country or more specifically as Chinese-Americans, I easily related to the growing pains they experienced through childhood, their struggles within relationships as they matured, and the ongoing, ever-changing connection between mothers and daughters.

Every week the women of the Joy Luck Club meet to play mahjong (one woman for each corner of the game table), raise money and feast. The hostess always served special foods to bring good fortune – “dumplings shaped like silver money ingots, long rice noodles for long life, boiled peanuts for conceiving sons, and of course, many good-luck oranges for a plentiful, sweet life.” The women would play all through the night and into the morning, until the sixteen rounds of mahjong were finished, and they would feast again.

I was quite excited to be able to make dumplings to go along with this novel. I found a recipe that sounded promising (The Only Dumpling Recipe You’ll Ever Need) and got a great Asian market recommendation from my coworker. I paid a visit to 168 Asian Mart one evening and picked up all the ingredients for the dumplings + some cute little sauce dishes I couldn’t resist + some mochi for dessert.

I assembled all of my ingredients and got to work.

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I wrung out each of the three thawed packages of Shepherd’s purse and chopped them as finely as I could. Then, I spent 7-ish minutes combining the greens with the pork and vinegar, wine, soy sauce and spices. Look at all that green:

I used water to wet the edges of my first dumpling skin, I plopped a generous dollop of filling onto it, and I realized I didn’t remember how to fan fold them. (Side note: I once worked as a “dumpling girl” at a restaurant folding several different kinds, each with their own unique fold. Over two extremely long weekends, I mastered all of the folds and made thousands of dumplings.) I watched some YouTube videos to jog my memory before deciding to stick with the simplest fold.

I boiled two of them to try out the filling. They passed the test, so I enlisted the help of my boyfriend and together we made about 90 before needing a break. A break meant it was time to eat! We pan-fried and then steamed them before enjoying the fruits of our labor.

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They were very vegetable-y but still quite good. If I made them again, I’d probably reduce the amount of greens or increase the amount of pork until I got the ratio I prefer. Since we’ll be eating these ones for quite a while, I’m not sure when that will be!

Pork Dumplings

  • Servings: Yields approximately 150 dumplings
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs green leafy vegetable (like shepherd’s purse, baby bok choy, napa cabbage, or Chinese chives)
  • 1½ pounds ground pork (or ground chicken or beef, as long as they aren’t too lean)
  • ⅔ cup shaoxing wine
  • ½ cup oil
  • 3 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon white pepper
  • ⅔ cup water, plus more for assembly
  • 3-4 packages dumpling wrappers

Directions

  1. Wash your vegetables thoroughly and blanch them in a pot of boiling water. Transfer them to an ice bath to cool. [If using frozen shepherd’s purse, make sure it is fully thawed before continuing.] Ring out all the water from the vegetables and chop very finely.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the vegetable, meat, wine, oil, sesame oil, salt, soy sauce, white pepper, and ⅔ cup water. Mix for 6-8 minutes, until very well-combined.
  3. To wrap the dumplings, dampen the edges of each circle with some water. Put a little less than a tablespoon of filling in the middle. Fold the circle in half and pinch the wrapper together at the top. Then make two folds on each side, until the dumpling looks like a fan. Make sure it’s completely sealed. Repeat until all the filling is gone, placing the dumplings on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Make sure the dumplings aren’t sticking together.
  4. If you’d like to freeze them, wrap the baking sheets tightly with plastic wrap and put the pans in the freezer. Allow them to freeze overnight. You can then take the sheets out of the freezer, transfer the dumplings to Ziploc bags, and throw them back in the freezer for use later.
  5. To cook the dumplings, boil them or pan-fry them. To boil, simple bring a large pot of water to a boil, drop the dumplings in, and cook until they float to the top and the skins are cooked through, but still slightly al dente.
  6. To pan-fry, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a non-stick pan over medium high heat. Place the dumplings in the pan and allow to fry for 2 minutes. Pour a thin layer of water into the pan, cover, and reduce heat to medium-low. Allow dumplings to steam until the water has evaporated. Remove the cover, increase heat to medium-high and allow to fry for a few more minutes, until the bottoms of the dumplings are golden brown and crisp.
  7. Serve with soy sauce, Chinese black vinegar, chili sauce, or other dipping sauce of your choice!


Find the dumpling skins fresh at the Asian grocery store. Look for the white, round ones. If they start to dry out, wrap them in a damp paper towel and put them in a sealed plastic bag for a couple hours to soften back up.

Freeze any unused dumpling wrappers in an airtight sealed plastic bag for later.


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